Courtesy of Peter White - broker
BEST Rural Property Guide
Do nothing - time is too precious to waste. Buddha. What better place to do nothing than in the country?
Rural or country property gives you increased choices for use of space, time, and lifestyle; rural life provides an abundance of fortunes.
Consider that you can have a big garden, grow your own food, drink pure water, breathe clean air, and have a lot of room to move around. Telecommute if necessary.
When you move to the country, you can expect change of heart, new ideas along with the setting and neighbors integrating into your life, soul searching and many serendipitous joys.
Investigate the area that you are moving to carefully. Talk to people about the weather. Find the pulse of local culture and subcultures; find your niche. Be sure the area and neighborhood will work for you. Look before you leap.
Expect greater travel time to the amenities of civilization such as stores, entertainment, hospitals, schools, and services. This is one of the tradeoffs with rural living; you have more privacy, less traffic, clean air and living conditions and have to go farther to get "stuff," unless you live in the middle of a town with more than a few thousand people.
Get to know the land to which you will be moving. Understand its uses, know the boundaries, explore the access and easements to and across it, determine its detriments and appreciate its potential. Talk to the surveyor that recorded your survey - and if you don't have a survey, you will do well to get one. Get to know the people that sell you your place and let them tell you all about it, its history, and how they lived there. Was this always a meadow? What are the good places to walk? Why are you selling?
Lay down on the ground and watch the clouds pass by, the treetops move in the wind, the birds pass; listen to the grasses and leaves. Contemplate priorities.
People - your neighbors and what they do - are important, too. Choose your location and homesite carefully; you may not wish to live downwind from a dairy farm, near a shooting range or next to a logging operation. Obviously you will want friendly neighbors with a good sense of boundaries and respect for your privacy. Talk with all of your prospective neighbors before you buy; you'll learn a lot and probably make some friends, not to mention ease your entry into the area. Make arrangements to borrow and lend that cup of sugar.
Land is your friend. Treat it with respect and care and it will do the same for you. Let wildlife use the ground freely; fence only your ornamental and food crops. Consider milling any timber that you fell for building materials; this can save you money and is more sensible than burning. If you can, mulch or chip slash from clearing and timber falling and use it to build soil. Dispose of toxic wastes properly; recycle.
Develop a gravity fed water system if your property permits - it's great to have running water when the power or your pump goes down for any period.
Get "off the grid" if there's any way you can - the cost of power keeps going up and even faster than that the enormous expense of getting power to your site - for the money you can spend on getting power to your new home you may be able to purchase a system that will free you from utility bills in perpetuity.
Consider buying a generator for your remote and/or emergency power needs. I did, about 5 years ago; it now has about 60 hours worth of use over those 5 years and has been a great convenience, if not a necessity, when the power has gone out - pumping water of primary importance, then running lights and the fridge. I put this purchase off as long as seemed logically spartan but.... a couple of three, five or seven day stretches of camping in our small home of about 900 square feet - shared by 2 adults, two teenagers, two dogs, two cats and many holiday visitors - with only sponge baths, heating water on the woodstove, having to eat all the food in the fridge or losing it to spoilage, no laundry, the initial romance of candlelight giving way to perpetual or sudden onset blindness blended with marathons of fumbling searches for matches to light the candles, suddenly very dead, hard to find and profuse save the actual operating flashlights, your basic tablespoon or evaporated milk stored on the highest kitchen shelf or under the house and sustained fear of leaving one too many candles awake with nothing to do while we all slept happily asking the whole of my home to join in the fun... Well, that all cured me. For more detail, ask. If you can help it, get off the grid; go solar, wind or hydro power.
Develop the proper type of septic system. When you have rural property, you will need to dispose of your own sewage and this means a septic system of some sort. Locally we use three kinds of systems: Optimally - and assuming your soils drain favorably - you can construct a Standard system that will cost you between $5,500 and $15,000. Middle of the line cost and option wise are the Highline systems. These require some elevated soils and gravel for the leach field and run in cost between $15,000 and $27,000. A Mound system (now said to be obsolete if not superceded by Aerobic systems by my most heavily consulted soils scientist) is generally constructed at sites that have poor drainage; it involves building a large pile - or mound, and hence the term - of soils and gravel that effluent is pumped up and into and eventually leaches out of in a sanitized fashion. This is the most expensive type of system to design and build; the cost of a Mound or Aerobic system starts at $15,000 and can run much, much higher.
Buy some rural property now. Prices in many places are low and so are interest rates - relatively. There's no time like the present and besides - who knows when property values will start to climb? Get in while the getting is good. Subject to change........
These are a few extremely generic hints that allude to untold numbers of specific conditions that you may or may not be interested in. Please call or email me, Peter White, should you be considering a move to the area and wanting specific advice.
Property Development Guild
Plan your project carefully.
Check zoning and uses that your zoning permits; consider changing your zoning and the costs involved subject to your needs.
Get a clear picture of the development process and costs. There may be requirements for easements, boundary line surveys and/or adjustments, utility easements, soil tests, various inspections from both contractors and local regulatory agencies; local assessment fees for sewers, streets, curbs, gutters, schools, archeological surveys, botanical and environmental studies, and even payments to the Department of Fish and Game may cost you lots of time and money.
Talk with your favorite contractor to get an idea of square footage costs for any structures you're planning to build; he/she can offer many suggestions that will facilitate your progress including hints as to how to save on time and money by completing certain tasks yourself versus hiring them out.
Stay on good terms with your local planning and building departments. I can't say enough good about everyone I've had the good fortune to work with at the Mendocino County Planning Department. They, being(s) like most of us, are really helpful or, inversely, extremely difficult if approached unkindly and if your relationship is combative.
Consider optimum siting for your improvements relative to access, solar exposure, privacy, slope, drainage, exposure to wind and the other elements; your comfort, safety, and security.
Walk your ground often before building and at different seasons if possible. Observe drainage, how the sun hits your site - or not - at the heights of the seasons, how the site is affected by the elements at different times of year.
Know your property boundaries. If you're going to build fences, make sure they're going in the right places. Don't tear any old fences down or put new fences up too hastily; converse with your neighbors about the property and fencelines so that when the fence goes up, it's in just the right place. Similarly, when your new neighbor arrives on their newly purchased homesite next to yours, make sure you look after your quarter mile of hundred-year-old split rail or stone fencing. I have a story or two about the above that will further illustrate the necessity of clear definition and communication.
Investigate the impact of your development upon local flora and fauna and vice versa. You may wish to avoid a deer trail, stand of trees, or proximity to a creek for various reasons.
If you're going to build anything on a concrete slab, make the slab tall - contrary to popular belief, the ground does indeed grow and will, up and onto your slab - to avoid moisture, drainage, and pest problems years up the road.
Plan for the long term - will growing trees block your view or more importantly, your sunlight? If your neighbors build nearby, how will that affect your property? Will traffic on your access road increase? Consider maintenance costs and sustaining ongoing demands on your resources. You can count on change, consider how it will affect you.
Consider natural disasters - fire, flooding, storms, freezing, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes - and their impact upon you and your property. Be prepared. Build well.
Most of all, as much as you can, be kind to the earth, water, sky and the residents, including humans, already there. "Development" can be one of the worst phenomena or events, sustained or otherwise, that can happen to (or be visited upon) you or a neighborhood, perceived or no.
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